Does Brightness Mean Warning Colouration in Butterfly Wings?

Christopher K. Starr, Boodram Sharon, Dale N. Stephens, Kevin S. Andrews, Shane T. Ballah, Marissa N. Gowrie, Princess M. Jagoo, Natasha M. St-Aimee, Craig A. Western


Butterflies (Lepidoptera: Rhopalocera) are a monophyletic group that has departed from the usual habit of its order in two outstanding ways. While most moths are nocturnal, with drab, cryptic colouration, butterflies are mainly diurnal and conspicuously colourful as adults. Barcant (1970) recorded 617 species of butterflies from the island of Trinidad, West Indies. It is well documented that unpalatable and poisonous animals tend to have bright, contrasting colouration (Edmunds 1974; Owen 1982; Wickler 1968), a phenomenon known from some butterflies (e.g. Berenbaum 1993; ScobIe 1995). But is warning colouration a general factor in the variable brightness of butterfly wings? We present here a test of this association.

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